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Dublin: 14 °C Tuesday 22 May, 2018


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Welcome to the day’s final game. Bristol Rovers haven’t won in nine, have lost their last four, haven’t got their first-choice striker on the pitch and are hovering above the relegation zone in League Two. Such facts would seem to lead the obvious question: why is this match on TV? Rovers haven’t hope against a very strong Aston Villa team. But then, that’d what the FA Cup is about. Proper shocks.

The teams:

Bristol Rovers: Poke, Woodards, Downes, Bolger, Sawyer, Anyinsah, Stanley, Dorman, Carayol, Zebroski, Richards. Subs: Cronin, Smith, McGleish, Lee Brown, Anthony, McLaggon, Goddard.
Aston Villa: Guzan, Hutton, Dunne, Collins, Warnock, Albrighton, Ireland, Petrov, Clark, Bent, Heskey. Subs: Marshall, N’Zogbia, Agbonlahor, Delph, Bannan, Weimann, Gardner

Richard Dunne and, once more, Stephen Ireland starting for Aston Villa. That at least creates an angle for the Irish as John Barnes and Kevin Keegan desperately ry and seel this game on ESPN.

On the basis of this dire performance, Connacht are really missing Jonny O’Connor and Brian Tuohy – both of whom were injured recently and are out for the foreseeable future.

Ciaran Clark, of course, also starts alongside Stephen Ireland in midfield.

McLeish before the gam:

“It would be fantastic [to win the FA Cup]. It is a long time since we last won it, but this club has a great history and heritage in the competition and it would be nice to give the fans something to smile about with a cup run. But we have to go out there and give it our best tonight, we can’t just expect to turn up and win.”

And we’re off. Bristol rugby club also play on this pitch and it’s in bits.

As you would imagine, Villa in control here and just keeping possession.

Bristol Rovers break Villa up and threaten with a long-range shot.

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At the moment, it’s Villa knocking long balls forward and Bristol trying some technique.

That’s a centre-half’s cross from Dunne! The ball came to him at the end of a corner and he meekly delivered a low ball back into the box.

Villa don’t look like a Premier League team here.

This is a much more hard-fought game than you would have expected.

Period of pressure from Villa as both Hutton and Heskey drive at goal from distance but it ends with a corner.

Heskey forces a great save from Poke in the Brtsol goal, the goalkeeper just touching his fine header off the line.

And now Rovers clear it off the line after Poke comes too far for a ball. Villa have stepped it up.

A blow for Rovers as their most incisive player, Carayol, must go off injured.

Seemed all of the action was collected in the middle of the day because this is arguably worse than Birmingham-Wolves.

GOAL! Bristol Rovers 0-1 Aston Villa

Stilian Petrov finally illustrates the difference in quality between the two sides by icking a beautiful pass for Marc Albrighton. The youngster then finishes well.

Villa just seeing out this half now. In control in the Bristol Rovers half. Ireland beginning to express himself.

Albrighton smashes a volley well wide. It was an ambitious effort!

Half-time: Bristol Rovers 0-1 Aston Villa

That was mostly awful to watch and, with the late first-half goal, it’s surely over as a contest.

They’re showing slow-motion close-ups of lads in the crowd eating pies. It’s that bad.

Second half is underway.

A chance for Bristol Rovers within seconds as the Villa box opens up but two players snatch at the chance and it goes atrociously wide!

Bristol Rovers really pressing Villa in at the moment!

Villa back on top here as they weathered Bristol Rovers’ early pressing. Stephen Warnock gives the ball away though. Again. He’s on an atrocious run of form at the moment.

We haven’t written in a few minutes because, basically, nothing of note has happened. Villa have the ball just inside the Bristol Rovers half. That’s been about it.

Bristol Rovers, by the by, have either run out of steam or ideas. They’re just sitting in ther own half having had some success pressing Villa earlier. It is, obviously though, a very difficult approach to sustain. Particularly for a team so low down.

Ciaran Clark has been solid today too. Heskey just flicked the ball through to him to go on a run but he couldn’t quite get it under control.

GOAL! Bristol Rovers 0-2  Aston Villa

Gabriel Agbonlahor rolls it into the corner. You’d say that had sealed it but this long ago ceased to be a contest.

Oh nice little move from Villa there as they try a one-touch passing game in the air, Ireland volleying towards Albrighton who plays back inside. That’s what this game has become.

James Collins coming off for young Gardner, brother of Sunderland’s Craig.

Bristol Rovers have the ball in the net but the referee had already blown for a handball in the box.

GOAL! Bristol Rovers 0-3 Aston Villa

Super goal from Ireland’s Ciaran Clark. Executes a few lollipops before cutting inside at the edge of the penalty area and curling it into the corner. Great strike for the youngster.

Must be a nice game to play this for Villa. Struggling for goals in the league, they’ve just played through a poor team here. Gabriel Agbonlahor has been running the show. Great for confidence.

Awful to watch mind.

GOAL! Bristol Rovers 1-3 Aston Villa

An atrocious error from Richard Dunne to gift Rovers a consolation. The centre-half nonchalantly plays a ball back to the centre of his goal. The only person there, though, Scott McGleish who experly lifts the ball over Brad Guzan in goal.

And now it’s a penalty to Bristol Rovers! Handball in the box…

But McGleish hits it low and Brad Guzan saves it!

FULL-TIME: Bristol Rovers 1-3 Aston Villa

It’s over. At last. A bit of drama in injury-time doesn’t make up for 90 minutes of nothing.

A relatively good day for the Irish as Stephen Ireland plays well and Ciaran Clark scores a superb goal but slightly offset by Richard Dunne’s brain freeze at the end. And, to be fair, it might have been slightly more interesting at the end had Bristol Rovers scored the penalty.